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6 tips for software selection: a consultative approach

Dec 3, 2015 4:00:16 PM

Software_Selection.jpgWhere does one start when trying to select the right corporate software to achieve a goal or fulfill a need within a business?  There are currently so many different corporate software options with products changing and new offerings coming to market daily.  As a corporate manager, it can be difficult, and even a daunting task to evaluate which software has the right functionality, the right price, and the right model to fit your business while trying to avoid buyer’s remorse or realizing, after completing an expensive implementation, that another product does exactly what you want it to do.

Enter the corporate consultant.  For years, consulting companies large and small have been relying on external consultants who take pride in being experts in their IT field to help drive the selection process and to help shortlist and ultimately select software for corporations.  While using consultants can certainly help make the process easier, faster, and ultimately cheaper overall, it by no means is a one size fits all solution to software selection.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when using consultants to help select your software solution for your business.

  1. Choose the right consultants

Choosing the right consultants to help with software selection can be as challenging as choosing the software in itself.  This, again ultimately boils down to what problem you’re trying to solve and who is the right person or firm to help you along.  If you’re simply putting in a check writing program or a something simple like an ecommerce management program, you won’t need to hire consultants skilled in complex ERP design and integration.  Similarly, if you’re looking to spend $1million or more on your software, you’re going to want to have the assurance that things are done right and the solution works exactly as needed, in which case you’ll want to go with a larger firm with lots of experience.  Try to choose a consultant or company who has experience using, supporting, and implementing software for the process you’re considering.

Try to get three consultants to give you each their price point, and then narrow down from there.

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  1.  Determine what resources you will need and make sure you and your consultants agree on resourcing

Before even thinking about beginning work, make sure you and your consulting firm agree on what resources are needed.  While you both should have an idea of who will be needed and how long they need to work for, it’s important to get to the specifics.  This will keep you from having any major surprises down the line, and will help you explain to upper management exactly what value the consulting firm is providing when it comes to the new software.  Make sure you understand everything before jumping in, and don’t accept generic or unsubstantiated claims such as “general support” as the reason for a resource.  The question “why?” is the consultant’s best friend and in a software selection,  it should be yours as well.

  1.  Be an active participant in the process

While competing corporate priorities make it difficult sometimes for corporate sponsors to be active participants in the software selection process, make a point to be involved.  The more involved you are with the consultants and with understanding the actual software and how it will work, the higher the chance of success your project will have.  Simply delegating everything to the consultants or taking time to answer questions from them will result in delays and higher than expected costs.

  1.  Insist on at least three different demos

Make sure that you and your staff get at least three demos from three different software providers.  Do your homework before each demo and have a list of must have features, along with nice to have features which you will be looking for in the software.  Your consultants should help you come up with this beforehand.  Also have a list of well thought out questions to ask the company software reps, such as “how will this integrate with my current software?” “How expensive will it be?”, etc.  Your consultants should help you come up with these questions as well.

  1. To Cloud or Not to Cloud

The cloud computing software revolution which has come about in recent years has significantly streamlined the software development and deployment process which has helped many software companies create more scalable and complex products which are more easily delivered.  Still, consider the risks when asking yourself whether to choose cloud software or not.  How fast can data be retrieved from the cloud? How can I get data to and from the cloud?  How will this cloud software solution integrate with my current IT systems?  These are all important questions to ask and ensure your consultant guides you through as you look at different systems.

  1. Obtain a consultative opinion

While you may not necessarily have to take it, make sure your consultants give you a presentation on their opinion and what they think would be right for you.  Make sure they also back up their opinions with well thought out facts and arguments and don’t be afraid to challenge them on their thinking and consideration.  While you don’t have to go with what they are proposing, it’s always helpful to have an outside proposition, especially if software selection is uncharted territory.

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Emil Stefanutti

Written by Emil Stefanutti

Emil is the CEO and Co-founder of ContractRoom. He has 20 years as an entrepreneur in tech, media and design. He co-founded Megazines Publications and America Riches and held executive positions at NBA and Batanga Networks. He founded his first profitable startup at age 14. He is Vice-Chairman of Miami Music Project and a board member of EndPoverty.org. Emil earned his degree in Design from the Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan, Italy.

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